It can be quite daunting taking your first steps onto a race track so i wanted to create a detailed step-by-step guide to our local track, Mondello Park, to help you find the right lines around this technically challenging circuit. The international track is 3.8km’s long and while not particularly high speed, it is as I mentioned an extremely technical circuit.
Before we get cracking I should probably introduce myself! My name is Sean Doyle and I currently drive for Murphy Prototypes in the European Le Mans Series. I’ve been racing for as long as I can remember and actually started in RC cars then moved on to Rallycross, Formula Ford, ASK Supercars and Formula Sheane amongst others. I’m also a Motor racing instructor for Mondello Park and Trackdays.ie – Mondello park is basically my second home!
First Things First
Before you head onto track let the car warm up for a good 5-10 minutes first and make sure it’s up to operating temperature. While the car is warming up you can make a few last minute safety checks – make sure your wheel studs/bolts are tightened and your tyre pressures are set. Make sure your helmet is done up and if you have a passenger, ensure thiers is done up too. Make sure everything is removed from the
Let’s start from the pit lane
When heading to the track for the first time its always very important to stay calm and relaxed. Take it easy for a lap or two, let your tyres, brakes, engine and gearbox all warm up and pick up the gradually. When joining the circuit from the pit lane be sure to start to gain speed before entering the track, there’s a solid white line to the left hand side, don’t cross that until the line becomes broken nearer to the first corner.
We’ll start our first flying lap coming down the main straight as you’re heading for turn 1. Allow yourself plenty of room for error as you will be coming down here quite fast. I’d advise braking at the bridge initially and then moving the braking point on a little bit each time ’till you find a comfortable spot for yourself. Where you brake exactly will depend on how quick your car is and how good the brakes are. At the first corner turn in late and cut back for a mid-late apex of the corner. A late apex gives you a shallower line on the exit of the corner (ie you don’t run all the way out to the exit curb) this gives you a better line for turn 2
before the second corner, use all the track on the right hand side and ease off the throttle slightly to transfer weight over the front axle and let it gain grip, aim for the apex and once at the apex start to let the car use the full width of the road moving out to the right hand side of the circuit. Try not to let it go over the kerbs on the exit of this corner as they are quite aggressive and can make the car unstable. The run-off area at turn 2 is very small so a bit of extra caution here is no bad thing.
Turn three is really two corners combined, but usually I’d just call this turn three to make it easier to follow the whole track plan. Turn three has a fast and a slow bit to it. In the first part of the corner it’s very easy to get drawn into taking it too fast, so make sure to brake at or before the 100m board and turn in at the 50m board. Get close to the kerb on the right, without hitting it, as its very high and will drastically unsettle the car, then get back on the power momentarily and let the car use all the road heading out to the left hand side, braking hard for the 2nd part of the corner. Aim for the Calor Gas sign way out on the bank and go all the way right out to the edge of the track before looking to the right for your apex. Turn in and clip the apex, you can take a bit of the kerb here to help your line around the corner, then let it run out to the left – again try and keep it off the exit kerb.
On the run into turn 4 I like to stay in the middle of the road, this allows you to brake in a straighter line. If you stay out to the right your run a higher risk of dropping a wheel onto the grass on entry and heading for the gravel trap. Stay in the middle of the road initially before getting across to the first of two apexes. If you don’t get in tight to the first apex the car can run wide as the corner has adverse camber on the outside. Once you get it into the first green and white kerb start to pick up a bit of throttle while aiming for the second apex which is the second Kerb. After the second apex kerb let the car run out wide and use all the road but again, keep off the exit kerbs.
Turn 5 (Parabolica)
This is one of my favorite corners on the circuit. It’s very easy to be tempted in too fast so you have to make sure to use the theory ‘slow in fast out’. To set the car up nicely, start slowing down before you go over the brow of the hill, be careful not to clip the grass on left on entry as it’ll send you into a spin. Get turned into the corner but don’t hit the apex kerb aim to just miss it, it’s a little raised and it will just unsettle the car and make you drift too far out. A common mistake is to hug the inside line as the corner is blind and quite daunting. You wan to exit around the middle of the road initially and then just at the final stage of the corner use all of the road to get the car as straight as possible as soon as possible.
Next you need to get the car set up for the two right hand corners 7A and 7B by inching your way across to the right hand side of the circuit, don’t be too abrupt in this, almost think the car across. Depending on the overall performance of the car that you’re driving, you may or may not need to take the left hand kink called Daley’s Drift into consideration. In really powerful cars you may need to lift before the left hand kink to help settle the car a bit before you hit the brakes. Daley’s Drift is on the crest of a hill which makes the car go light, just as you want to hit the brakes which can make the approach to Tarzan quite interesting!
Turn 7A & 7B (Tarzan)
On approach to theses corners 7A looks very open and inviting but it’s far from it. It’s a tight corner with little room for error and probably the most common place on the circuit for drivers to end up in the gravel. Approaching Tarzan over the brow of the hill you need to get the car back to the left hand side for the braking zone, make sure the car is in a straight line as you brake, in order to minimise the chance of spinning off. I would advise to brake nice and early here (once in a straight line) until you get used to the corner. Don’t turn in too early, there’s a huge cement kerb which will launch you up on two wheels, so try aim for it without hitting it. Use all of the road out to the left after turn in, getting back on the power momentarily, then ease off the power to let the nose gain grip for 7B. Again, don’t cut this corner, it’ll push you out wide on the exit and there not much room before you’ll be playing in the foam bales. Stay on the left all the way up the hill to the ‘Esses’.
Turn 8 & 9 (The Esses)
On the way up the hill after ‘7B’ you’ll be on the left approaching this corner. The common mistake here is to turn in early, but fight the urge because this will push you wide in between the two corners and screw up your line for the second part of the esses. You can take a bit of kerb here (perhaps not quite as much as in my on-board shot below 😉 )
The later you turn in the straighter run you will get for turn 9 which is the second part of this series of corners. This allows you to get on the power much earlier. Stay on the right hand side after the second part to get you in the correct position for turn 10
Once out of the Esses stay on the right for the next left hander. It’s very easy to turn in to this corner too early as well so try and hold out and aim for quite a late apex. Once turned in there’s a long way till the apex so pick up the throttle gradually to get you there, then on the way out of the corner gradually build up power as you let the car move out to the exit on the right. Stay on the right for the next fast last hander back on to the National Circuit
Turn 11 (Paddock)
Turn 11, or ‘Paddock’, is a fast kink which you have to approach with caution. Don’t let the open nature of the corner drag you in, make sure and slow the car down enough that you don’t run wide on the exit which is very easily done and can launch you across the road into the path of on-coming cars. Turn into the corner, aim for the apex and then start to pick the power back up ever so slightly to help balance the car through this fast kink. After you go over the slight bump in the middle of the apex let the car drift right then get the car back over to the left for the final corner.
Turn twelve is an important corner if you’re chasing lap times as it leads on to the longest straight so you want to carry as much speed through here as possible but it’s trick because it’s blind on approach so brake early and try not to end up in the gravel trap on your first attempt at the corner, stay on the left hand side, keep an eye out for the 100 board on the left or if that’s not there look for the marshal’s shed on the left and brake about 20 meters before that (again depending on what your’re driving) Stay on the left and don’t turn in too late as you can easily miss the apex. Get it into the apex and the camber of the corner will help you through. Use the road out to the left on exit and then get the car into the middle of the road. To prepare for braking for turn 1 stay in the middle of the road on the straight until you get to the bridge, keep a good eye on your mirrors for faster cars then start to ease over to the left before getting hard on the brakes for turn 1 again.
So that’s it, a flying lap of Mondello Park International. Check out my on-board video at the top of the page to see how it all flows together! If you’ve got any questions please leave a comment below. Enjoy!